Longleat keepers surprised after rare 'rock rabbit' gives birth to triplets

Pair of baby rock rabbits exploring their enclosure
The new arrivals pictured at Longleat Safari Park. Credit: Ian Turner

Keepers at Longleat wildlife park in Wiltshire had a surprise delivery after one of their resident animals unexpectedly gave birth.

Their Arabian rock hyrax - known as the rock rabbit or dassie - gave birth to triplets with staff unaware she was even pregnant. It is only the second time the species has bred at the park.Resembling large guinea pigs, rock hyraxes are found throughout Africa and in parts of Asia.

All the babies are in good health. Credit: Ian Turner

However, Longleat’s pair are an even rarer Arabian subspecies - making the shock delivery a very welcome one.

Keeper Kim Ovens said: “To be honest, we did not know for sure mum Dozy was expecting and so to come in and discover three tiny babies was fantastic. “Although we can’t tell what sex they are yet, all three babies are doing extremely well and becoming more active and independent with every passing day.”

Related to elephantsThough they resemble a pet you might keep at home, the furry creatures' closest living relatives are actually elephants - with whom they share an ancestor.

Closer inspection reveals that - like their much larger cousins - the rock hyraxs have tusk-like incisors.

And despite the new arrivals becoming more active, the species is not known for its athletic ability.

It's only the second time the species has bred at Longleat. Credit: Ian Turner

It has been estimated that, on average, rock hyraxes spend up to 95% of their day either resting or sunbathing.

This is thought to be due to the fact they are not very good at regulating their body temperatures.When there is no sunshine, they will often snuggle up to each other in their dens – a behaviour which is known as ‘heaping’ and can involve dozens of rock hyraxes.

Scientists have identified rock hyraxes make at least 21 different vocalisations, including trills, yips, grunts, wails, snorts, twitters, shrieks, growls, and whistles.Males are also highly territorial and, like birds, will sing complex songs that can last for several minutes to make their presence known.

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